Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Love and Grace (09/11/14)
TITLE: Lillian the Librarian
By Leola Ogle
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When the library closed and Lillian lost her job in the big city, she was devastated. She loved books. She’d loved them her entire life, but mostly poetry books. She considered herself a poet and had several poems published over the years.
At thirty, Lillian’s mother considered her a spinster. “You should find a husband,” her mother harped. “All you do is read, write, and waste away in the library.”
“Mom, I want a husband, but without reading and writing and books, I feel like half a person. Can’t you understand that?”
When Lillian saw the ad for nearby Pleasantdale, she was ecstatic – “Librarian Wanted. Everyone in Pleasantdale loves books. Only those who love to read books should apply.”
She met with the mayor and committee. It seemed a perfect match. A library was as important to them as it was to her. “Welcome aboard,” the mayor said with a handshake.
Lillian was in heaven the first day on her job. She ran her fingers lovingly over the shelves, inhaling the smell of books. As she walked around, she was alarmed to find there wasn’t a section for poetry. This can’t be. Maybe I overlooked it.
She walked slowly through the library, but there were no books of poetry. I must talk to someone about this. But she was so busy getting settled, organizing work schedules for staff, and greeting everyone who came in to meet her, that she pushed it aside.
Until the mayor came in.
“Mr. Jones, I’ve been meaning to talk to you. There isn’t a section for poetry. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any poetry books in this library.”
Mr. Jones stiffened and his face clouded. “Lillian, we do not mention poetry or poets in this town. We should have made that clear to you.”
Lillian was astonished. “Mr. Jones, you can’t be serious. What is a library without poetry? Some of the most important writings have been poetry.”
Mr. Jones cast nervous glances around. “Let’s step into your office.”
Lillian’s alarm grew as she followed Mr. Jones. Closing her office door, he faced her. “Many years ago we had a poet in town. He wrote dark, frightening things. And he was a mean person. He gave children nightmares. We don’t care for poets. We’ve banned all poets and poetry since then.”
“You judge all poets because of one? But I write poetry.”
Lillian thought he would have heart failure. When he finally recovered, he growled, “You must leave town immediately.”
“Why? You think all poets are mean? Not all poetry is dark, although even dark poetry can be beautiful.”
“In Pleasantdale, we strive to be pleasant. We only read pleasant things. Leave. Get out!”
Lillian left the library but not before insisting on a town meeting. “I will have my say.”
“Fine,” Mr. Jones responded, “but it won’t help. Poets and poetry will never be welcome in Pleasantdale.”
Lillian prayed before the town meeting, asking God to show the people that it wasn’t right to judge everyone because of one person. Besides, poetry would enrich their lives.
Lillian saw the closed looks on faces as Mr. Jones opened the meeting. The people gasped when they heard that Lillian loved poetry and was a poet. When it was her turn to talk, she announced she would simply read one of her poems titled Grace.
Before she started, everyone covered their ears. Dismayed, Lillian decided to read anyway. She noticed ten-year-old Grace hadn’t covered her ears. Maybe she thinks the poem is about her, Lillian thought.
Lillian’s poem told the different meanings of grace – fluid and smooth movement, pleasant behavior, a blessing over meals, a musical trill, to adorn, to confer honor upon. It concluded with saying grace is the undeserved gift or favor from God.
When she finished, young Grace stood and applauded. Encouraged, Lillian read another poem titled Love. Again, Grace stood and clapped. Her widowed father, not wanting Grace to be shamed, stood and applauded. Then Grace’s grandparents followed likewise. Soon others stood and clapped. That’s when the mayor asked Lillian to read her poems again, instructing everyone to listen.
Things changed. That night would forever be known as the time Lillian the Librarian spoke of love and grace to Pleasantdale; when the townspeople understood poetry and poets could be beautiful.
It’s also the night Grace’s father fell in love with Lillian, and eventually made her his wife.
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